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Thu, Oct 03, 2019
New Red Order (NRO) is an indigenous collective that uses video and performance to disrupt European colonial narratives and create sites of acknowledgment and “savage pronouncement.” While the group’s members rotate, its core contributors are Adam Khalil (Ojibwe), Zack Khalil (Ojibwe), and Jackson Polys (Tlingit). The collective’s name is a subversive reference to The Improved Order of Red Men, a fraternal organization established in 1834 by and for white men and characterized by their appropriation of “American Indian” rituals and dress. Notable members included Warren G. Harding, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Shot in Syracuse, New York, and commissioned by the Urban Video Project, CULTURE CAPTURE: TERMINAL ADDITION continues the collective’s interest in bringing indigenous culture and sovereignty into the present. The video focuses on Syracuse’s cultural institutions and public monuments that commemorate (and thereby reinforce) European settler versions of history. It begins with news footage of the desecration of Christopher Columbus statues in cities around the country. While current debates about such monuments focus on their removal from public spaces, NRO contends that this seemingly simple solution is also problematic. Instead, they urge viewers to confront and question these symbols and the dominant narratives they represent through strategies of “addition,” a layering on of new and critical perspectives.
Using 360-degree video and 3-D imaging technology, the artists reconsider these monuments and remix content from cultural collections. In the video, a series of images from Syracuse University’s archives flash by, showing plaster maquettes of statues including the iconic “End of the Trail” by James Earl Fraser, which depicts an indigenous man on horseback pushed to the edge of the continent and defeated. Actor (and fellow NRO participant) Jim Fletcher—a white man and self-described “reformed Native American impersonator”—appears onscreen and states: “images that represent the settlement of this land unconsciously inform our inability to comprehend our settler reality.”
At the center of the video is the bronze “Saltine Warrior” statue, which masked NRO members surreptitiously scan and photograph, and later digitally manipulate. Situated on the Syracuse University campus, the statue depicts Ogeekeda Hoschenegada, a 16th-century chief from the Onondaga Nation whose remains were thought to have been found on the campus in the 1920s. While the story of this discovery turned out to be false, a bronze statue of the chief was nonetheless placed at the site of his supposed burial, and he became the university’s caricatured mascot until 1977. What does this statue—a fictitious representation of an indigenous man, placed on the fictitious site of his burial, symbolizing a fictitiously positive relationship between settlers and indigenous people—actually represent? What stories of blood and bone lie within it? How can we unsettle its narrative? Strategies of capture and reclamation don’t necessarily offer answers to these questions, but they can serve as a call to viewers not to consign these monuments to the past. “The society of statues is mortal,” the final voiceover reminds us. “One day their faces of stone crumble and fall to Earth. This botany of death is what we call ‘culture,’ and this is how we capture it.”
Curator, Film/Video Studio
New Red Order
CULTURE CAPTURE: TERMINAL ADDITION, 2019
7 mins., video